By Travis McMullen Contributing Columnist
May 27, 2014
I’m not a teacher, or a bureaucrat who makes a special effort to tell teachers how to do their jobs, but it seems to me the Common Core initiative is generally a thing we should support and embrace.
There is an impressive amount of hyperbole being employed by Common Core opponents:
“These people that will now receive $220 million from the state of Florida, unless this is stopped, will promote double-mindedness in state education and will attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can,” said State Rep. Charles Van Zant.
That’s just dastardly; not just slightly gay, or moderately gay, but as gay as possible! Let me re-examine these standards and locate… wait a minute, there’s nothing here pertaining to sexuality here. How will my children know whom they’re allowed to love? Clearly, anything that isn’t sufficiently heterosexual is essentially homosexual.
Here is an incomplete list of things that pundits have compared to Common Core: the zombie apocalypse, natural disasters, the rise of Hitler and communism. Clearly, the eventual heat death of the universe is nothing compared to the looming nightmare specter of Common Core!
There are people who are convinced that Common Core is nothing more than modern leftist indoctrination, or at least an attempt to set the groundwork for future indoctrination. I don’t see anything particularly partisan about these standards, but clearly, that is because I am already too far gone.
If there is any logic at all to that thinking, it must go a little something like this: one of the concepts at the core of the Common Core is the idea that there are multiple and varied ways to solve a problem. In the good old days there was just one proper way to do a given math problem, of course, and the relative uniformity of the curriculum produced straight and narrow thinkers who understood the way that things should be.
So maybe they think that a child who understands that there are multiple ways to approach a math problem might assume that there are multiple ways to approach any of life’s problems and that they don’t have to do everything in the traditional way.
But these people must hate mathematical freedom! Modern sensibilities dictate that more options are better and that we should strive to throw out the instructions and do it however we want. It’s patriotic to circumvent the system and get the same results anyhow, right?
There is a good reason for including multiple and sometimes overly complicated methods for solving a problem: they’re not all going to really click for all of the students, but you catch different kinds of fish when you cast different kinds of nets. Michael might latch onto method A, and Billy might prefer method C but they both eventually arrive at the answer. Diversification of thinking doesn’t essentially create revolutionary leftists.
And there’s another top complaint, this one coming from the parents of students that have already been subject to some of the Common Core standards: it’s too hard!
I think that increased difficulty is probably a standard feature of most education reform. Every day I read someone complaining about the fact that the American education system is coming up short when compared to the education systems of other countries. There are endless amounts of graphs, charts and statistics that say the education of the standard American student is inferior to that of other students around the world.
And if that is the case, then we’re never going to make up that ground by making things easier. It would pain school-age Travis to hear me say this but maybe the existing relative ease of an American education is the problem.
Should we resist things just because they are hard? The long-standing Protestant ethic dictates that difficulty is never a valid complaint in and of itself. Reform is typically hard; life’s hard too. The kids that hate school are still going to hate it and the kids who like school will learn, grow and come to love it even more than they ever did.
I think at the most basic level all this opposition comes from that good old human notion of resistance to change. I got one kind of education and I turned out just fine, so there’s no reason to attempt any improvement!
I want the absolute best for my hypothetical future children: it doesn’t matter how I had it, I want them to have it bigger, brighter and better. I want them to one day argue in favor of whatever system eventually replaces Common Core in a couple of decades. What has worked before can work even better.